It’s midday, there’s glorious sunshine, and I’m in the middle of a field somewhere in Derbyshire. What more could I ask for? A German thrash metal outfit, fronted by a lady known to be a growler? Go on then.
Holy Moses have been around forever, well for 30 years anyway. So, it’s a relief to know I am not the only one who has never heard of them. Around the press area I can’t find anybody who knows anything about the third band of the day (my first) on the Ronnie James Dio stage, apart from they have a female vocalist and this is their first UK festival appearance. Hearty headbanger Sabina Classen, with her death growl vocal is clearly an experienced performer – with a cheesey grin, surveying those who have turned out for Holy Moses today – she and her band motor through a set of tracks which include ‘Def Con II’, ‘Through Shattered Mind’, ‘Nothing For My Mum’ and ‘End Of Time’. It’s tight thrash/speed metal which gets your head nodding and Sabina is a fine rarity within the genre. “This is the best breakfast I’ve ever had” she tells us. That maybe the case, and I’m pretty sure there was a time when Holy Moses were a revelation, but perhaps not so much at Bloodstock in 2010.
From one German lady who I know nothing about, to the next – the first lady of metal, the ageless beauty that is Doro Pesch. As Doro hits the stage, I’m standing in the photo-pit totally awestruck, transported back to Donington 1986, when myself and friends fought our way to the front to watch the Warlock set. As it happens, twenty-four years later – she launches straight into ‘Earthshaker Rock’ as she did back then. The blonde bombshell, dressed in leather, fist punching, horn thrusting, singing her heart out – marvellous. This turns out to be a pretty much a Warlock set with ‘I Rule The Ruins’ and the majestic ‘Burning The Witches’ given an outing. Sabina Classen from Holy Moses joins Doro for ‘Celebrate’ from her 2009 album ‘See No Evil’, and there’s a cover of Judas Priest’s ‘Breaking The Law’ with an acoustic first verse and chorus, which Doro dedicates to the memory of Ronnie James Dio. Completing the set with the sing-along ‘All We Are’ from Warlock’s final 1987 album ‘Triumph and Agony’, Doro gives Bloodstock somewhat an extended thank you and goodbye. In all, yes perhaps a little cheesey, but proving that Doro is not only the epitome of heavy metal, but that of hard-work, professionalism and grace.
Where metal meets folk music I have very little knowledge or interest, although where Korpiklaani are concerned it’s apparent the Finnish ‘Wilderness Clan’ do have a fanbase. This being a mostly drinking and dancing brigade, which I guess is exactly their target audience. Particularly after opening with a track entitled ‘Vodka’ and frontman Jonne Järvelä stating “Alcohol is good for you”. It appears that Korpiklaani are here for a song and a dance, and to simply perpetuate the novelty of being a drink-based novelty band. If that’s not the intention, then I’m not sure what is. Whilst a sizeable crowd are happy to dance away to this ridiculous nonsense, the fun factor they might have wears very thin, very quickly. Completing their set with ‘Happy Little Boozer’ and ‘Beer Beer’ – during which they throw cans of beer into the audience – I find I have had more than enough of Korpiklaani.
And then comes some real fun and nonsense, in the shape of satirical US metallers GWAR, for whom the stage is set with plenty of plastic sheeting and giant bin-liners. If that’s not warning enough to those of us lined up in the photo-pit, then comes the following sign: “If you shoot GWAR it is at your own risk!!! It is your responsibility to protect your gear from blood, spunk and nuclear waste, which will damage your equipment. Look out for decapitations and dismemberments!!!” GWAR hit the stage with a decapitation of a tall character who proceeds to squirt the front rows throughout the first track ‘Metal Metal Land’. From here it’s comic book madness all the way, with a nazi pope, a masturbating Hitler ejaculating gunk over the crowd, and a cannon soaking them to the bone. It’s very much a visual feast, very entertaining and a lot of fun. In amongst the GWAR theatre of blood and gore there are some songs, such as ‘Ham On The Bone’, ‘Saddam A Go-Go’, ‘Let Us Slay’ and ‘Maggots’. There’s some nice riffage here and there, but great songs they are not. But hey, it’s not the music that have made GWAR a succes for 25 years. Finishing with ‘Sick Of You’, I watch a couple of hundred front-rowers walk away, their faces covered in red and green gunk, with bright white smiles beaming from within, and that is what GWAR are all about.
After GWAR and the mass exodus from the Ronnie James Dio stage – presumably giving many time to wash the mess off – it’s questionable if anybody will be around for French enviro-metallers Gojira. But with show time approaching, the masses return for what turns out to be a highlight of the festival. I’d heard nothing of Gojira to date but will definitely be checking them out further to today’s performance. Technical mastery abound, tracks such as ‘The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe’ and ‘Flying Whales’ are a mix of brutality and complexity. I’m not sure exactly what the genre is here, something along the lines of technical/death/progressive/groove metal, but I like it.
Next up on the Ronnie James Dio stage are Swedish death metal supergroup Bloodbath, lead by Opeth’s vocalist/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt. I’m no expert here but I gather this is something of a special occasion, as the band don’t appear live too often. Saying that, Opeth headlined on Friday night, so this performance ties in nicely for Åkerfeldt and drummer Martin “Axe” Axenrot. Anyhow, we’re off and it’s brutal, death metal lunacy all the way. A 12-track onslaught of whiplash inducing material including ‘Soul Evisceration’, ‘Breeding Death’, ‘Mass Strangulation’ and ‘Mock The Cross’. Bloodbath have a massive audience turnout with row after row of horns aloft, confirming a dominant Swedish conquest. However, it is strange to witness a combination of such musical vicious agression, and the casually calm banter from Mikael Åkerfeldt. He even refers to his make-up, confirming that his eyes aren’t really bleeding, so there should be no concern. I know the guy is considered a ‘god’, but he does appear out of place here. Finishing with “a song about food”, Åkerfeldt and co tear it up with ‘Eaten’ – the chorus to which roars “Carve me up, slice me apart. Suck my guts and lick my heart”. Now some folk might think that’s pretty gruesome, but those folk probably haven’t heard of the next band to appear today …
From Buffalo, New York come death metal legends Cannibal Corpse – purveyors of controversially gruesome music for the past 22 years. Launching into ‘Scalding Hail’ George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher is both a vocal and visual blur – growling and windmilling from start to end. Along with awesome speed riffage from Rob Barrett and Pat O’Brien, original members – bassist Alex Webster and drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz – are a rhythm section of ferocious intensity and dexterity. For an hour solid the crowd pay homage to tracks from the Cannibal Corpse 11 album catalogue, including: ‘Savage Butchery’, ‘I Cum Blood’, ‘Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains’, ‘Priests Of Sodom’ and ‘Hammer Smashed Face’. There is a continued circle pit and barrage of crowd surfers dedicated to making life busy for front-of-house security, right until the end, when total annihilation is complete with ‘Stripped, Raped and Strangled’. Cannibal Corpse are mayhem to behold, creating bedlam within the ranks of Bloodstockers here today. They may not be a band I’m going home to listen to, but it’s a pleasure to have witnessed such an outstanding performance from one of metals most barbarous acts.
As the sun begins to set on Bloodstock Festival 2010, it is with great respect that headliners Twisted Sister cut short their standard intro of AC/DC’s ‘Long Way To The Top’, and switch to Rainbow’s ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’. The unmistakable voice of Ronnie James Dio bellows from the PA, reminding us all of the recent sad loss of this great rock icon. It’s a fitting way to begin the end of this fantastic Festival’s tenth anniversary. The start of ‘Come Out & Play’ with the band in darkness is a further tension builder, during which time – for the second time today – I am transported back to the mid-eighties, when I first saw Twisted Sister and they opened up in the same way. As the original line-up – fronted by Dee Snider – charge on stage, I’m momentarily gobsmacked to be watching these guys 25 years down the line, when it only feels like yesterday. Tonight Twisted Sister rock Bloodstock with a setlist of classics and a performance of mammoth proportions with ‘The Kids Are Back’, ‘Stay Hungry’, ‘Shoot ‘Em Down’,’You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘I am (I’m Me)’. Murmerings about the choice of headliner could only have come from those with a complete misconception about Twisted Sister. They have never been ‘glam’, the music too aggressive, the outfits too grotesque – although it is a relief to see they have done away with the latter. This is a true rock band, a real metal band, a band ideal to headline Bloodstock Open Air 2010 in place of the previously scheduled ‘Heaven & Hell’. Dee Snider has lost none of the attitude or showmanship with his voice remaining as potent as ever. His passionate performance, ranting between songs and amusing banter is nothing but top class entertainent, and he works the crowd extraordinarily well. There’s a huge sing-along during ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’, and a poignant dedictaion to Ronnie James Dio with a cover of Rainbow’s ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Closing the party with ‘S.M.F.’ Twisted Sister depart, leaving a massive mark on all who witnessed them. Towards the end, forming member and guitarist Jay Jay French had told the crowd that Twisted Sister do not visit the UK as often as they should, and he promised that they will do so more often. If this is the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if every one of the 11,000 or so metallers in front of stage tonight will make the effort to see them again.
Review & Photography: Steve Johnston